The Armanious family - Hossam Armanious, 47, his wife Amal Garas, 37, and the couple's two daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8 - were found by the Jersey City Police Department in their Oakland Avenue home early in the morning in separate rooms, bound and gagged with their throats punctured. According to police, the family had apparently been dead for two days before they were discovered.
Since then, local and federal authorities working together on the case have had few very leads.DeFazio still holds strong to the idea that robbery was a motive for the killings. The Armaniouses were found with no money on them.
However, relatives disagree, saying $3,500 in jewelry remained in the house.
DeFazio also said that he has ruled out the theory that the murders were because Hossam Armanious' religious-based postings on an Internet chat site angered Muslims visiting the site. The Armanious family were Coptic Christians who emigrated from Egypt in 1997.
But that has not stopped rampant speculation that Muslim extremists were behind the murders, which has resulted in tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, and numerous writings on the Internet criticizing authorities and the media for avoiding the possibility of religious motives behind the murders.
Tuesday, relatives of Amal Garas took part in a press conference organized by the U.S. Copts Association and held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. They spoke out about the murders.
Also, a vigil took place on Saturday at the St. George and St. Shenouda Church Community Center in Journal Square to remember the family.
Victims' relatives seek justice
At the press conference, the family thanked authorities for their work in the investigations and warned against the rumors that have infiltrated the public regarding the murders.
"In the midst of the heartbreak and chaos, we feel it is imperative that speculation and rumor not compromise the integrity of the investigation nor our community's unique position in this country," a relative read from a prepared statement. "We are determined to obtain a just and speedy resolution to this gruesome matter that has caused our family and friends so much grief."
Family members also clarified misstatements of fact that have been reported in the media.
Accordint to the statement, "Various theories have circulated regarding the possible motivations for the killings. One such theory regarding an 'old country vendetta' has emerged, attempting to link an old Egyptian practice with the killings of the Armanious family. Such a theory, in our opinion, lacks credibility. Such vendettas, while common practice decades ago in Egypt, are no longer tolerated or practiced in modern society."
The family also dismissed the motive of robbery, as they noted that $3,500 in jewelry remained in the house and the family was not known for keeping large amounts of money in their home.
"If the primary motive was robbery, why would they have killed each person in such cruel and vindictive manner?" they asked. "Robbery is certainly not a motive in this case."
A vigil was planned for Saturday (Feb. 19) at the St. George and St. Shenouda Church and its Community Center. The vigil was attended by over a thousand mourners who packed the church on Bergen Avenue and the center on Vroom Avenue.
Relatives, friends and acquaintances came to pay their respects to their departed loved ones 40 days after their passing in accordance with Christian tradition. Many wore buttons with a picture of the family and a quote from the Bible - "DO NOT BE AFRAID FROM THOSE WHO KILL THE BODY".
Speakers urged authorities to find the killers as soon as possible while urging Copts and others to let the authorities do their job.
During the vigil, people manned tables in the community center where they encouraged attendees to sign petition letters that would be sent to U.S. Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Robert Menendez encouraging them to ensure that all resources are utilized to solve the case.
Also, in a bit of timely programming, the TV show America's Most Wanted on Saturday evening showed a segment on the Armanious family murders.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org